Study: Chances 1 in 10-Billion A Cellphone Would Spark A Gas Station Fire

For decades, Canadian regulators have warned that pulling out your cellphone while filling your car with gas could spark a fire that could end your life.

But after a new examination of data showed the likelihood of a phone starting a fire is miniscule, Ontario's Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) will permit limited cellphone use at gas stations.

The prohibition had been based largely on the fact that cellphone manufacturers don't rate the devices as "intrinsically safe". 

In a February study commissioned by the Canadian Fuels Association, risk management firm BakerRisk found the chance that a phone would ignite vapours at the gas pump is one in 10 billion. The firm adds that there have been no documented fires started by cellphone in the last 20 years.

"Based on that, we were willing to revisit our position and say that we were okay that the phone can be used as a pay app," John Marshall, director of the TSSA's fuel safety program told NEWSTALK 1010 on Tuesday.

Still, Marshall is promoting a "pay and put it away" approach. He wants drivers to focus on the task of refuelling, not getting distracted by texting, web-surfing, or talking on the phone, which Marshall warns could present other risks.

The decision whether or not to remove signs and stickers prohibiting cellphones will be left up to station operators, though Marshall worries that without them, customers will believe it's safe to use their phone however they want.

The TSSA says operators have an obligation to stop customers from filling up if they are using a phone for any reason other than paying with it.